Following a Judicial Luncheon with Governor DeSantis at this year’s Florida Bar’s Annual Convention, Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles T. Canady joins host Renee Thompson to discuss the recent appointment of three new justices to his court, the influx of funding to help the court attract and retain a talented staff, and the steps the court is taking to better serve the community through new technology programs.
Charles T. Canady is the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court.
The Florida Bar Podcast
Florida Bar Annual Convention 2019: A Conversation with Chief Justice Charles T. Canady
Intro: Welcome to The Florida Bar Podcast, where we highlight the latest trends in law office and legal practice management to help you run your firm, brought to you by The Florida Bar’s Practice Resource Center. You are listening to Legal Talk Network.
Renee Thompson: Hello and welcome to The Florida Bar Podcast, recorded from the 2019 Florida Bar Annual Convention in Boca Raton, Florida. This is Renee Thompson, a member of the Florida Bar Board of Governors and I’m your host for today’s show. I’m sitting in for the regular host Christine Bilbrey and Karla Eckardt.
Joining me today I have a very special guest, our Chief Justice Charles Canady. Welcome to the show Chief Justice.
Chief Justice Charles T. Canady: It’s good to be here.
Renee Thompson: Before we get into our discussion today, could you tell the listeners a little bit more about yourself?
Chief Justice Charles T. Canady: Well, I’m the Chief Justice. I became Chief Justice about a year ago. I’ve served on the court now for more than a decade. I’ve been a judge on our District Court of Appeal for the Second District for a few years before that. I had a prior life as a politician, that’s a long time ago now. So I’ve been a proud member of the Florida Bar since 1979.
Renee Thompson: Well, that’s wonderful. Can you tell us a little bit about the court and its makeup. I know you all have had some new justices join the court and I love our listeners to learn just a little more about them.
Chief Justice Charles T. Canady: Well, we have gone through a big transition on our court this year. In January, three of the senior justices, the most senior justices on the court retired under our constitutional mandatory retirement. Three new justices came in to replace them. They joined four of us, who had been on the court, three of us on the court have been together for more than a decade.
Renee Thompson: Sure.
Chief Justice Charles T. Canady: And a-fourth of the justices has been on the court for about two years. So now, we’re kind of gelling as a new court, a new incarnation of the court and I am so delighted with my new colleagues. We are all — all seven of us are wonderful friends. We enjoy working together and so it’s been a great experience welcoming the new members to the court as we go about the business of deciding cases.
Renee Thompson: So I had the privilege of attending the judicial luncheon yesterday at the Florida Bar Annual Convention and I was struck sitting in the room, what an honor it was to have the Governor of the State of Florida attend. I have been to many judicial luncheons before, but to have Governor DeSantis attend I thought was just a stellar moment for our Bar, and just wanted to get your thoughts on some of the things that he mentioned to our members yesterday at the luncheon.
Chief Justice Charles T. Canady: Well, I was delighted that Governor DeSantis was willing to come and be a part of our judicial luncheon. I think it’s very helpful in establishing a good relationship between the Bar and the executive branch. The Governor has many different places in the State the size of Florida that he could be on any given day.
Renee Thompson: Absolutely.
Chief Justice Charles T. Canady: So, for him to make it a priority to be with us on that occasion, I think speaks volumes about his commitment to the court system and his commitment to the legal system. Our Governor is a man, who’s a lawyer, he’s a serious lawyer, he has thought deeply about matters related to the judicial system and the rule of law.
And I think that came through loud and clear in his comments yesterday. So we look forward to working with the Governor. We appreciate his support for the judicial branch and in particular our funding priorities. We’re glad he spared us the veto pen in that process and has been ongoing.
And so he’s appointed three members of our court. He’s appointing judges all over the State. In my opinion he did an excellent job at appointing the three members of our court because they are three extraordinarily talented people —
Renee Thompson: Absolutely.
Chief Justice Charles T. Canady: — who I think are going to end up being great justices and will serve the people of our State with great distinction.
Renee Thompson: So, you mentioned that he spared the veto pen, tell us a little bit about some of the positive things that are happening with the court’s budget?
Chief Justice Charles T. Canady: Well, we did have a very good year in the legislative process with respect to our appropriations. The big item for us was a $10.3 million budgetary item for the retention and recruitment of court staff. We have a problem retaining and recruiting staff for the court system.
The problem we face is that other government entities hire our people away. We can’t compete. Our salary structure is not sufficient to effectively compete with other entities of government. So we may have someone working for us being paid $40,000 but they can walk down the street to go to work for the county for $50,000. Well, that obviously they’re going to make that walk.
So this package that the Legislature has approved and the Governor has approved will help us close that gap, and it will give us an opportunity to do a better job in recruiting people and retaining people to staff the courts.
And of course, the judges of the State can’t do the work we’re called on to do without appropriate staff support.
Renee Thompson: Absolutely.
Chief Justice Charles T. Canady: And we really rely on our staff and we’ve got many great staff people who are so dedicated and work so hard. We need to do a better job and compensating them appropriately, and I think this is going to help us move in that direction. We’re very grateful to the Legislature for making this funding available to us.
Renee Thompson: Seems like it will have a lasting impact on our branch to have not only staff that are trained but to have the historical knowledge in the position so that we’re not constantly dealing with the revolving door within the branch.
Chief Justice Charles T. Canady: It’s absolutely essential and we’re now going through a job classification study and a process in which we’re going to decide how we use the money. This is not a pool of money for across-the-board pay increases.
Renee Thompson: Right.
Chief Justice Charles T. Canady: There’s actually some positions and the branch that are paid at a competitive level with respect to other entities of government, but this money is going to be targeted to help us deal specifically with the recruitment and retention issue, but we’re going through a study now. The Legislature has required that as part of the appropriation and that is ongoing, and we are going to try to make sure we use this money in the smartest way possible to have the biggest impact on our system.
Renee Thompson: Well, that’s just wonderful news. You are also undertaking some pilot projects at the court level that I’d love our listeners to hear about. I read recently that the court was undertaking some things in the online dispute resolution context. Could you tell us a little bit about the projects that the court is looking at and some of the benefits that they’re hoping this might see?
Chief Justice Charles T. Canady: Yes, we are looking at and the court has approved the implementation of online dispute resolution pilot projects in a number of jurisdictions around the State in various case types and we’re going to be using a couple of different or two or three different vendors and go through a process where we’ll see what works best.
And the idea behind these pilot projects of online dispute resolution is to figure out how we can do a better job of serving who the people are coming to court. In many circumstances, it’s a very burdensome thing for people to actually leave work and come to court, and if for certain categories of cases, we can structure things so that people can handle matters online, it will save the litigants an enormous amount of trouble.
And so we’re trying to figure out how we can do that in the best interest of the litigants we serve. And we’ll see what works, we’ll see what doesn’t work, and if we find something that works, we will try to institutionalize that.
Now, obviously, many disputes are not going to be able to be solved online. So this is not designed to be something that would displace the traditional court system but for categories of cases where it’s possible to effectively use online dispute resolution, I think it’s something we really need to explore. So we can do a better job of providing justice to the people of Florida who look to the courts to resolve their disputes.
Renee Thompson: And I think it’s so important that the courts keep up with the technology that’s available to not only provide access, like you talked about, but to make sure that all the litigants like have the opportunity to have their day in court if they want it but if they’re able to handle it in a more effective and efficient way, it only makes sense to try it in that context.
Chief Justice Charles T. Canady: Absolutely. I think we’ve got to be looking at innovative ways of doing the work that needs to be done. We can’t be stuck in the models of the past. We’ve got to be looking at the opportunities we have to do things more effectively and in a way that’s going to work better for the people we’re serving.
Renee Thompson: So before we wind up this program today, Chief Justice, I just want to know, would you tell our listeners just a little bit about you personally, I think you are just an incredible model of professionalism, but I know you are also a dear family man, and I’d love to hear just a little bit more about you as a Chief Justice, but you as a human being as well.
Chief Justice Charles T. Canady: Well, I am very blessed with my family. I have a wife and two beautiful daughters. My daughters are 18 and 20. One is a student at the University of Florida and one is about to become a student at New College in Sarasota.
Renee Thompson: Fantastic.
Chief Justice Charles T. Canady: So I’m very proud of my two daughters, Julia and Anna and my wife, Jennifer, is a wonderful support to me and as my family has just always been there for me and encouraged me in my work and have always done everything they can to help me go about the work I need to do for the people. And I’ve been very blessed as a lawyer to have had a number of interesting jobs in public service. I mean, I love public service and I love the law.
So it turns out that being a Judge is a wonderful way to combine the public service with the love of the law, and so I consider myself among the most fortunate of people to have had the opportunities I’ve had to serve in different capacities and government as a Legislator or briefly in the Executive Branch as the General Counsel for the Governor of Florida, and for the last I guess about 17 years now as a Judge, and I’m deeply grateful for that opportunity.
Renee Thompson: Well, we’re very deeply grateful here at the Florida Bar for all that you do for the citizens of Florida and for our members. You have a very demanding job as our Chief Justice, but you handle it with grace and professionalism and on behalf of the Bar, please allow me to thank you for all that you do. I am always amazed to see not only do you handle your dockets, but all of the administrative issues that you tackle on a daily basis. So thank you again for the work that you do and for advocating for our branch of government.
Chief Justice Charles T. Canady: Well, thank you, and let me say on behalf of myself and our whole court we are deeply grateful for all the work that the Florida Bar does, that we have an outstanding group of leaders in the Florida Bar who do so much to serve our profession and it is really an inspiration to see — to come to a convention like this and see all the things that are going on to actually help improve our profession, and our efforts to improve our profession are at the end of the day efforts to do a better job in serving the public.
Renee Thompson: Absolutely.
Chief Justice Charles T. Canady: And so that’s what our profession is about service to the public.
Renee Thompson: It’s our core mission.
Chief Justice Charles T. Canady: Yeah, and so we’re very grateful to the leadership in the Florida Bar and all the people who play a role in making the Florida Bar work for our profession and for the people of Florida.
Renee Thompson: Well, thank you so much. It looks like we’ve reached the end of our program. I want to thank you so much, Chief Justice, for joining us today.
If our listeners have questions or wish to follow up with the court, what is the best way to reach the court?
Chief Justice Charles T. Canady: Well, the Public Information Office at the court is available to field questions and they can get information to people, that’s available on our website and we’ve got a very effective public information office operation and so that — and we actually have a good website too, and there’s much information available about the court on our website.
Renee Thompson: And also on social media. I saw you on there.
Chief Justice Charles T. Canady: Yes, we have an active presence on social media, so there’s a lot of information that people can find about the court.
Renee Thompson: Well, that’s all the time we have for this episode of The Florida Bar Podcast. Thank you to our listeners for tuning in.
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Again, I am Renee Thompson from the Florida Bar Board of Governors, and until next time, thank you for listening.
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